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|Tuesday, January 21st, 2014|
The Hilliard Ensemble concert tonight was excellent, and definitely worth the drive to Duke Chapel in the snow. Turns out that this 40th anniversary tour is also a farewell tour, so I'm glad I got to hear them a last time. My favorite of the mostly unfamiliar works was Pérotin's Viderunt
, a 12th-century work that somehow sounded more modern than the 20th-century works on the program by Gavin Bryars and Arvo Pärt.
On Blu-Ray, I watched Phillip Glass's newest opera, The Perfect American
, about the highly imperfect character of Walt Disney. Musically this doesn't break any new ground for Glass, but it's perfectly enjoyable and the Teatro Real production is quite good.
In other news, the Xbox One's Kinect sensor was already gotten flaky. On the plus side, Microsoft's warranty coverage seems to be pretty good, and supposedly a new console is already on its way (and then we ship the old one back). Also, The S-4 and S-5 license tests in Gran Turismo 6
are really painful.
There was a thread
a few days back on Facebook in which Gardner Dozois mentioned Avram Davidson's "Full Chicken Richness" as featuring "perhaps the stupidest reason for time-travel in the entire corpus of time-travel stories". So I had to go dig out my copy of Dozois's Year's Best Science Fiction: First Annual Collection
and read it, and indeed, it is a pretty silly use for time travel. And a really funny story. I might have to reread Ian Watson's "Slow Birds" and Greg Bear's "Blood Music" while I have this volume upstairs (and maybe the Tiptree and Bruce Sterling and Connie Willis and Jack Dann and Gene Wolfe and GRRM... What a year 1983 must have been!)
I'm three weeks into my physical therapy for my frozen shoulder (idiopathic Adhesive Capsulitis) which I had finally gotten around to having diagnosed right before New Year's. My range of motion in my right arm seems to be coming back reasonably well, which has been nice.
And now I should go kill the fake High Priest and free the Temple of Dharma from the monsters. Yes, with a PS4, Xbox One, and Wii U having been added to the household in the past couple of months, I've found myself with a hankering to play the 13-year-old PS1 Dragon Warrior VII
. I've never actually finished DW7
, though this is the 3rd or 4th time I'll have started it. Somehow the first 20-30 hours are always really fun before it succumbs to the tedium of random battles (or so I recall). I really wish the industry would make some more good old-fashioned turn-based JRPG's.
|Friday, January 3rd, 2014|
The past few weeks have been spent playing entirely too much Lego Marvel Super Heroes
and Assassin's Creed IV
(finished the main story in both, leaving trophy mop up and DLC for AC at some point), along with a bit of Gran Turismo 6
and Forza 5
for variety. I do wish the PS4 were backwards compatible with the PS3 (and the XBone with the 360) so we could ditch the old consoles and simplify our wiring. Also finally picked up the new Mario 3D World; Mario's cat form is ridiculously cute.
With all the gaming, I haven't been reading as much as I'd like. I did get through Lavie Tidhar's The Violent Century
(from PS Publishing, though I believe there's a trade edition coming soon). It's an alternate history in which an accident in 1932 causes superpowers to randomly manifest in the population (rather than merely being recorded in the pages of comic books). However, since every country has their own superheroes, twentieth-century history (and especially WW2) proceed more or less unchanged except in small details. It's a fairly dark book (focusing as it does on violent upheavals) but still a fun read.
On the short fiction side, only a handful of stories. For Boxing Day, G.K.Chesterson's Father Brown story "The Flying Stars," featuring a jewel theft during a Boxing Day pantomime. Thoroughly charming, as all the Father Brown stories are. Also dipped into the new issue of Crimewave
) with Melanie Tem's "Singularity," a somewhat creepy tale about two old friends who are trying to escape their pasts until they're forced to reveal their secrets to one another. And finally, the December 2013 issue of Cosmos
includes a short story, "Swarm" by Craig Miller about self-driving cars and the take-over of ordinary life by insurance companies. It starts off with a bit too much info-dumping (especially given the short length), but it comes to a fairly satisfying conclusion once it gets to the plot.
On the music side, I started dipping into Decca's amazing box set of Britten's complete works. Amazing how much wonderful but seldom heard music is in there. One of my favorite new-to-me pieces so far was the posthumously published variations on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, "Men of Goodwill" (as performed by the Minnesota Orchestra under Neville Mariner. I do hope Minnesota is eventually successful in preserving that excellent orchestra!)
And to close: Jake & Mimi around the Christmas tree.
|Saturday, December 14th, 2013|
Tonight was Part 2 of the Hobbit at Marbles Imax in 3D, the 3D being entirely unnecessary for this film but the Imax being quite necessary to fully appreciate Smaug. There was definitely some padding for the middle film (the whole side plot with the Tauriel/Legolas/Kili love triangle is rather silly; if there must be an elf-dwarf love story, why not at least stick to the canonical characters and do Legolas & Kili?) But the core of the story is intact, and the visual spectacle is quite entertaining.
Before the movie, we went to Caffe Luna, my first time there (we've tried several times in the past and always been thwarted by long waits or special parties or odd hours). But tonight we got in, and it was definitely yummy! Veal Parmigiana for me, and I got to sample the Tortelli Crostacci, which was also delicious.
|Thursday, December 12th, 2013|
I keep meaning to get back in the habit of LJ to keep track of my media consumption (or at least the books and stories I read). But then I always spend too long thinking about what I might write and never actually do it. So I'm going to try to keep it to a couple sentences, and see what happens. Though who knows whether I'll get around to actually logging into LJ when I'm not bored in a Dallas hotel room surrounded by icy roads.
Anyways, tonight I finished Terry Pratchett's newest Discworld novel, Raising Steam
. There are shiny new steam engines! And cameos by just about everybody who's ever been in a Discworld book. And it features Moist von Lipwig, who remains one of my favorite of Pratchett's characters. So, lots of fun reading this one.
|Thursday, July 18th, 2013|
In case anybody still reads LJ that doesn't read Facebook, here's a link to a video of my wedding ceremony last weekend with Junjie "Edward" Jia, with Rev. Dan Hille presiding, held in Bryant Park, New York City. A truly wonderful day!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaP3V7LwB5Y
|Saturday, October 6th, 2012|
Congratulations to J.A. Pitts for winning this year's Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Honeyed Words. I'll definitely have to read that. (Short list for those interested, since it may take a few days before the web site gets updated: The Cold Commands by Richard K. Morgan, Grail by Elizabeth Bear, Huntress by Malinda Lo, Rule 34 by Charles Stross, God's War & Infidel by Kameron Hurley, The Highest Frontier by Joan Slonczewski, A Rope of Thorns by Gemma Files, Static by L.A. Witt, and The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff).
|Tuesday, February 21st, 2012|
Perhaps a John Ajvide Lindqvist story wasn't the best choice of pre-bedtime reading; "The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer" is one creepy scary story.
|Monday, January 30th, 2012|
|A reading update
Finished rereading Snow Crash
book club (which was supposed to be yesterday but got moved to Feb 12 due to the hosts' colds). Holds up surprisingly well for 20-year-old cyberpunk.
Also started in on this years recommended short story reading with the Stoker prelim ballot
. Still waiting on a few books before starting the "Long Fiction" category, but finished up the "Short Fiction".
First up were Michael Bailey's "It Tears Away" and Gene O'Neill's "Graffiti Sonata", both in The Shadow of the Unknown
(though the O'Neill is apparently a reprint from an out-of-print issue of Dark Discoveries)
. The best part of these two stories is that they're very short. O'Neill's story at least shows some ambition in its attempt to marry a musical sonata form to the plot development, but it doesn't quite work. The editor's forward notes that "neither myself or any of the talented writers adorning these pages received any payment or compensation." I know lots of small-press horror doesn't make much money, but this isn't something to boast about in the forward. At least these two stories read like trunk stories that should have just stayed there. Not everything in this anthology is bad, though; I read Gary A. Braunbeck's "The Music of Bleak Entrainment", which has a great narrative voice that grabbed me immediately and made for a very enjoyable technological musical Lovecraft pastiche. The Braunbeck was apparently commissioned for a pro anthology edited by John Pelan for Darkside Press that never actually came out (though Camelot Books still optimistically lists it for pre-order
Next was “Hypergraphia” by Ken Lillie-Paetz, published in the iPad-exclusive publication The Uninvited
, which seems to me like a bizarrely limited way to distribute a publication. I don't have an iPad, but there was a PDF of this story
floating around on the author's web site. Based on that, The Uninvited
does have some fantastic graphic design for its stories. The story itself is a decent tale of an author who can't stop writing and tragic consequences.
John Palisano contributes an entry for "X" in M Is for Monster
, featuring a nasty parasitic monster named Xyx. A disturbing little story.
Next is Kaaron Warren's "All You Can Do Is Breathe" (Blood and Other Cravings
), a fresh take on a vampire story in which a miner survives a cave-in only to lose everything to a mysterious creature. A very good story that nicely captures the roller-coaster of emotions as the miner is saved, only to lose everything.
Moving on to the jury's picks, next up are two stories from The New Yorker
, "Atria" by Ramona Ausubel and "Home" by George Saunders. I'm not sure I'd really classify either of these stories as horror, though they touch on horrific events. "Atria" is very much a New Yorker
story about rape that takes itself far too seriously and just comes off as trite. George Saunders writes great humor and satire, but in "Home" he takes on the consequences of war for the survivors in a more serious way and falls flat. I didn't much care for either of these.
In a similar vein, Stephen King continues to strive for Literary Respectability with "Herman Wouk Is Still Alive
" in The Atlantic
, which riffs off a terrible minivan crash while trying to capture some insight into class in America, but somehow it just ends up being rather boring. I wish King would leave the sex-crazy poetry professors to Houellebecq, et al, and get back to the horror he's good at.
Getting beyond what I can only assume is the Stoker jury's questionable attempt to gain some sort of mainstream respectability for the award, the final two selections are actually good. Nathan Ballingrud's "Sunbleached" (Teeth
) is another vampire story, set in a hurricane-ravaged Mississippi. Joshua thinks he can protect his family while gaining the gift of immortality when a vampire is trapped under his house, but things come to an inevitable nasty conclusion. Not the most original premise, but very nicely done.
Finally, the best of the "Short Fiction" on this year's ballot, Adam-Troy Castro's "Her Husband's Hands
" from Lightspeed Magazine
. Set after a future war when soldiers come home as salvaged body parts with their memories in attached devices, this story has some of the most unsettling scenes I've read in a long time, and the ending is one I don't think I'll ever be able to forget. Unlike the Saunders story, Castro really captures the horrible consequences of war.
|Tuesday, March 1st, 2011|
|March 1, 2010
Feeling a bit sad today, remembering the events of this day last year. It seemed like a good time to go re-read and transcribe from my handwritten scrawl my reactions on receiving Phillip's autopsy report in my inbox not long after.Report of Autopsy Examination
"The body is semi-clad in a pair of green nylon swim trunks."
They know your name, identified from "papers/ID Tag" but reduce you to "the body." They are the medical examiners. In this system, I am nobody, just a citizen requesting a public record. They will never know how the sight of you in those green nylon swim trunks used to make me tremble slightly and draw me out to the pool with you. But not today. Today I had work to do. I had to stay inside and push meaningless buttons on that silly machine instead of following you out on that first warm sunny day of spring after a too long winter. Now that silly machine brings me this report. Today I cannot push those meaningless button. These words I write longhand.
"The myocardium shows no evidence of acute infarction, scarring, or focal lesion."
I never doubted your heart, though you did. You loved everyone and everything in the world around you, bringing me joy, too. Yet you always questioned your own heart, with your mother telling you gays are evil, that you're spending too much time with me instead of looking for girls. It wasn't always easy being near you, and seeing in your eyes the conflict of your love for me and the guilt you felt for that love. In time I know you could have accepted the greatness of what your heart told you. But now that heart has stopped.
"The parenchyma of both lungs shows moderate congestion without obvious consolidation or focal lesions."
What an odd way these examiners have of saying there was water in your lungs. Are they afraid of stating the obvious too obviously?
"The stomach contains approximately 10 mL of partially-digested food."
Our last lunch together only a few hours before. You wanted Mexican, which I never liked. I got carry-out Chinese next door and then we shared a table. I thought it was funny how you picked out just the steak from the fajita leaving behind a stew of onions and peppers; yet you claimed it was the best fajita you'd ever had. Now the steak has been left behind, too.
"The bladder contained urine."
That's how we always seemed to end those wonderful sessions relaxing in the hot tub. One of us would eventually have to go pee, and we'd go inside and the world would being moving again. Except for this time, when it seems to have stopped forever for both of us.
"Reproductive: Grossly unremarkable."
"Unremarkable" is not a word anyone would ever have applied to you in life. You were definitely a shower rather than a grower. Sometimes when I would take you into my mouth, I would think it was too big, but then resting my cheek against the warmth afterward, it always seemed just right.
"Brain: The leptomeninges are thin, delicate, and congested."
Somehow that seems like it must be a bad thing, whatever the leptomeninges might be. Wikipedia could probably tell me, but they are never mentioned again in the report, so I guess it means nothing.
"The decedent is a 29 year old male who was found underwater in a communal hot tub."
It was easy to forget it was a communal hot tub. It was always just you and me taking advantage of it, only a few steps from your door. Our private escape except for the occasional passing dog walker or pigeon flying past. This day, though, was so beautiful that someone else did come to the hot tub. He even knew CPR while I have mostly forgotten it since my college first aid class. But it wasn't enough. The paramedics came, they made their efforts, and they took you away from me to become "the body" of this report.
"The cause of death in this case is drowning."
Such certainty at the end, answering nothing.
|Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011|
|Thursday, January 20th, 2011|
I've traditionally used LJ for reading logs, so since I finished a couple books in the last couple days, let's see if I can get back in the habit.
Yesterday finished Charles Stross' The Fuller Memorandum
, the latest in the Laundry Files cycle, in which the British secret service defends our world against the Elder Gods via computational magic. Fun as always, though with most of the really bad nasties off-stage for this one, I didn't enjoy it quite as much as previous entries. It is nice to finally get the back story on Angleton, however.
Tonight finished up Thomas Mann's The Tables of the Law
in a new translation by Marion Faber and Stephen Lehmann. This is a novella Mann wrote as an introduction to an anthology of stories on the Ten Commandments, and it's a comedic/ironic retelling of the life of Moses from childhood through the delivery of the Commandments to the Israelites. All of the miraculous events of that period are in here, with Mann carefully suggesting mundane natural causes for all of them. Light and enjoyable and well-crafted.
|Wednesday, January 12th, 2011|
|Back to LJ, maybe
Haven't updated here in over 2 years, having mostly moved to Facebook for updates as that seems to be where most people are nowadays. On the other hand, it seems everybody's on Facebook now: my mother, church members, co-workers, etc., which means there are some things I'm not quite comfortable posting there. So perhaps it's time to go back to the occasional update here.
Anyways, for those who don't follow me on Facebook, I've been working in New York City since May, traveling up there Sunday night to Friday night every week. So if you haven't been seeing me around, that's why. Hopefully we'll be finishing up the project this month and I'll have at least a little more time at home to catch up on socializing.
In other news, I have a new boyfriend. Unfortunately, it's pretty much the longest-distance possible long-distance relationship; Edward is Chinese and lives in Shanghai. We met in New York, and I've been over to Shanghai a couple times now, and he's coming here for 3 weeks in February (while China shuts down for Chinese New Year). Of course we skype or qq video chat pretty much constantly.
There doesn't seem to be any practical way for him to immigrate to the US, so I'm looking for expat jobs in Shanghai. I haven't had a whole lot of luck yet, but hopefully something will come up before too long. Either that, or they'll repeal DOMA, but I don't think we can count on that happening in the next couple years.
Other than that, I don't think there's been too much exciting going on. Still playing too much Rock Band 3 and never having as much time to read as I'd like (and the piles of books keep arriving).
|Tuesday, December 9th, 2008|
|No more Loudtwitter
It was broken for a week anyways, and twitter seems to have reached a critical mass of users in the last few months, so I'm suspending my Loudtwitter cross-posts to Livejournal.
In future, if you want to keep up with my quick updates-that-fit-in-140-characters-or-le
ss in addition to my occasional longer posts here, go follow me on twitter
. Or if you want to comprehensively stalk me all in one place, subscribe to my friendfeed
|Monday, December 8th, 2008|
So, as I twittered
Saturday, I finally tracked down the weird circular wrench needed to open my whole-house water filter housing at Pope's True Value in Durham, at the Village Shopping Center. Then Sunday morning I see this
. Guess that might not have been the safest place to be shopping, though I didn't feel unsafe when I was there.
Anyways, in more pleasant news, today's mail:
That's Prince of Persia
for the 360; the new issue of Dalkey Archive
's Review of Contemporary Fiction
; one of the final books from the abruptly closed Humdrumming Press, Tim Lebbon's novella The Reach of Children
; Edge of Our Lives
, a collection by Mark Rich from RedJack Books
, mostly reprints, with a few new stories; and the newest from Paper Golem
, containing original novellas by jaylake
, Bruce Taylor, James Van Pelt, and Ray Vukcevich, and companion chapbook Cucurbital
, containing four short stories by the same authors, both edited by Lawrence M. Schoen & Arthur Dorrance.
is the second book I've noticed this week that is using a cover photo under a Creative Commons Attribution License
(in this case for "To the Skies -- a photograph
by Philipp Geisler of Gertrude Reum's 'Geformte Chromnickelstahlrohre'").
|Sunday, December 7th, 2008|
I've been using mycheckfree.com for years to pay my utility bills. So tonight, I get an email that purports to be from them informing me that if I had attempted to access online bill payment between 12:30 a.m. and 10:10 a.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, December 2, 2008 using Windows, their site may have redirected me to a site that might have infected me with malware which may have escaped detection by virus scanners. I use Opera and Chrome, not IE, so I'm probably safe, but I have no idea if I accessed the site during that time (I quickly log in and schedule payments when I get notification that bills have arrived, so I don't really remember when I used it), and they say they're working with McAfee to provide more information and assessment.
So, assuming this is legit, it's good of them to let customers know about the potential problem, though it would have been nice if they'd included a bit more detail on the malware in question. But they obviously have very little clue about how to handle this sort of thing.
The email they sent was mailed from mail17c.mkt030.com, and the return address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Links in the mail go to links.mkt030.com. That may be a legit bulk mailing company, but who knows?
They have a mechanism in place to deliver messages via the web site after you log in, so I check that; no copy of the message there, and no info on the site about the breach.
I go look up their customer service 888 number and call that; it's already closed for the night, and the message there says nothing about the problem.
There's an 877 number in the email I got, but the only google hit for that is a copy of this very email, and the guy who answers it admits it was newly registered to deal with this problem. So, um, how do I know I'm talking to Checkfree?
The email did contain my name and the out-of-date address I have on file with them, but of course, if their site was actually hacked, that doesn't tell me anything - and that much is public record anyways.
So, it's great they sent out a timely message about their breach. But I got it on Saturday night, and it appears there's no authenticatable method of contacting them for further information until Monday.
Checkfree Corp obviously has no clue about security and social engineering. Unfortunately I'm not sure there are any better options, since most billpay sites end up using Checkfree on the back-end. Anyone have any suggestions for other sites that do bill presentment and payment for Duke Energy and AT&T that don't use Checkfree?
ETA: Here's an article
about the breach. So it would seem a Checkfree employee fell prey to a phishing attack and leaked their password with Network Solutions for domain registration. And now they're sending out emails to customers that are indistinguishable from a phishing attack. That's some astounding incompetence.
|Saturday, December 6th, 2008|
In addition to the The Week
and The Economist
(shockingly, both delivered on Saturday this week, as they're supposed to be but so rarely are (I do so loathe the Raleigh USPS)), and the new issue of Locus
, today's mail included book deliveries from two of my favorite publishers, PS Publishing
and Lethe Press
, the new issue of Postscripts
, reprint Bradbury collection The Day It Rained Forever
, novellas Living with the Dead
by Darrell Schweitzer and The City in These Pages
by John Grant, and the new "PS Showcase" collection by Douglas Smith (with an introduction by Chaz Brenchley (desperance
)). And from Lethe
, Sea, Swallow Me
, a collection by Craig Laurance Gidney (ethereal_lad
), which includes Spectrum Award shortlisted "A Bird of Ice" along with 5 other reprints and 4 new stories.
On an entirely unrelated note, do people give Christmas bonuses to newspaper carriers nowadays? Today's News & Observer
included the usual December "Happy Holidays" insert with my carrier's home address on it. I assume that's a discreet way of asking for a Christmas bonus, but I've always felt like it'd be weird to mail a check for that to somebody I've never even met. And how much would even be appropriate?
|Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008|
|Monday, December 1st, 2008|
|Too much mail
I'd forgotten what it's like to come home to a week's worth of mail all at once:
That's just what actually came home from my box at The UPS Store; all the junk mail and extraneous packaging has been trashed already.
The squirrel plushy is a "free gift" from amazon accompanying Rune Factory 2
. Other games on the stack are Luminous Arc 2
, The Last Remnant
, Midnight Club: Los Angeles
, and Soul Calibur IV
Below those are books and booklike magazines: The Hounds of Skaith
by Leigh Brackett (Planet Stories), The Dark World
by Henry Kuttner (Planet Stories), The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs and the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature
by David Niall Wilson (Bad Moon Books), Population Zero
by Wrath James White (Cargo Cult Press), Islington Crocodiles
by Paul Meloy (TTA Press), Crimewave Ten: Now You See Me
(TTA Press), The New York Tyrant
Vol. 2 No. 2, Subterfuge
(Special Edition) edited by Ian Whates (Newcon Press), the poetry chapbook War
by Harold Pinter (Faber & Faber), Cool Thing: The Best New Gay Fiction from Young American Writers
edited by Blair Mastbaum & Will Fabro (Running Press), The Best of Lucius Shepard
(with accompanying volume Skull City and Other Lost Stories
) (Subterranean Press), and Marveltown
by Bruce McCall (FSG).
Magazines are new issues of The Week
, The Economist
, The New Yorker
, Black: Australian Dark Culture
, the now sadly ended Flytrap
, The Lutheran
, The Advocate
, Realms of Fantasy
, Consumer Reports
, Sport Diver
, Weird Tales
, One Story
, The New York Review of Books
, and the New York Observer
I guess I should go read some stuff now.
|Thursday, November 27th, 2008|